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Mataura’s past

The construction of a bridge a short distance below the Mataura Falls can be credited with the town’s birth in 1859.

A wooden trussed girder bridge, it was only a matter of four years until the bridge was swept downstream in a flood April 1861. It took seven years before a new bridge was built.

1866 saw the beginning of a progressive era for the settlement. It also saw one of the most prominent figures of the town making waves during this time. Otherwise known as “The Father of Mataura” by residents, James Pallock arrived intrigued by the potential of the area.

Not only did he get the first post and telegraph office in the Mataura valley set up, Pallock was responsible for bringing the first blacksmith, shoemaker and saddler to the area.

He built and ran a general store, another first for the District, and the first saleyards.

Mataura’s progressive future

Mataura people elected their Town Board in 1882, the same year as Gore and Wyndham. The Town Board governed until Mataura was proclaimed a borough and mayor and council were elected. It was 1895 and the first mayor was Thomas S. Culling.

Mataura continued to develop its industrial assets and slowly but surely its population increased. A new concrete bridge was constructed in 1939 to replace the worn-out bridge from 1868. It still stands today.

Mataura’s great Falls

If you stand on the Mataura Bridge and look upstream today you will see a weir and the remains of the mighty Mataura Falls.

These falls were a tourist attraction for early European settlers. Sadly, the falls – known as Te Au Nui to Māori – are far less spectacular than they once were, as Mataura’s European settlers blasted the rock away and built a weir to harness the water to power local industries.

The falls’ significance reaches back before Mataura was ever established as a township.

It was Paroparo Te Whenua of Ngati Mamoe who first discovered the tasty taonga harboured within the waters around the falls.

Following a flood, he observed gulls were feasting in the area. On investigation he discovered the migratory kanakana, or lamprey, that during September and October would climb the falls.

Since that time generations of Waiataha Katimamoe Ngaitahu have gathered kanakana for their whanau.

In 2006 Mataura Te Awa Mataitai, New Zealand’s first freshwater reserve, was opened to preserve the area.

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